The big bang theory ... a fireworks survival guide for pet owners

NO FUN: While we may relish fabulous fireworks displays, often our pets do not.

NO FUN: While we may relish fabulous fireworks displays, often our pets do not.

For us, fireworks are exciting and joyous, but these spectacular celebrations of light and sound can be a source of utter and absolute terror for animals.

So with the biggest fireworks displays of the year coming up, it's a good time to take a look at ways to get our pets and livestock safely into the New Year and beyond.

A PURRFECT PLAN

A good run - Take your dog out for a good long walk in the afternoon or evening before the fireworks and follow it up with a good meal. A tired, well-fed pooch may be less anxious and fall asleep more readily.

Stay home - A loving owner is always the best protection so being home is the surest way to keep them safe.

If your pet seems distressed or frightened, resist the urge to pat or reassure them, no matter how hard that may be.

Do not punish them for their fear, instead reward calm behaviour and be cheerful and in control. Above all behave normally and act as though it is a regular night at home.

You may be able to distract your dog with games and treats, but don't force it.

If you can't be home with your pet, perhaps you can arrange for a friend to visit.

Inside story - Bring all animals indoors where possible including dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals.

This will minimise the sensory overload and reduce the risk of animals injuring themselves trying to escape or being hit by cars in the process.

Familiar smells and spaces can be crucial in keeping the peace.

Close the curtains, put on the radio or television ... even the washing machine or dryer can work as they create white, background noise.

If need be, cover cages with a thick blanket, while still allowing for good ventilation, to muffle sounds. Create a comfortable hiding place for dogs and cats with blankets or a bed. A cardboard box works well.

Always have food and water available.

Larger animals like horses, goats, sheep and cattle should either be securely stabled or moved to an area away from the display. Horses, in particular, are susceptible to panic and injury.

Remove all sharp edges or items from the stable or shed, cover the windows for the duration of the display and provide plenty of food and water.

Chip in - ensure all pets are microchipped and that your details are up to date. Add a collar with a name tag and contact details just in case the very worst happens and your furry friend does make a run for it.

Secret smells - dog and cat pheromone products are available which can help keep your pets calm.

NEVER TETHER ANIMALS

Tethered animals are more likely to feel trapped and panic, dramatically increasing the risk of choking, serious injury and death.

Avoid tethering animals at any time during a fireworks event.

BE PREPARED

Often the explosive sounds, rather than the lights, have the biggest impact, so it is worth trying to desensitise your animals to fireworks.

Starting quietly in a room where the dog is free to leave, play recorded sounds of perhaps a thunderstorm just loud enough that you begin to notice some irritation in your dog, such as ear-twitching.

Attract your dog's attention. Play, act as if everything is normal, and reward calm behaviour with praise and attention.

Keep this up for five to ten minutes at a time, and leave the sounds on after you leave the room. Stop if your dog is stressed or scared, and try again later with the volume even lower.

Repeat the process three to four times a day, gradually increasing the volume over the course of a few months.

Allow three to six months to complete this kind of training.

If however, your pet suffers from unmanageable fear or phobias of fireworks or thunderstorms, talk to your vet about treatment options.